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McKinsey’s Automation Report and the Challenges of the New Educational Reality

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Prof. Gabriel Mario Rodrigues

Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES

“Consumer relations will change, and we do not know what will happen. The ones who start early will come out ahead, because they will have a bigger market as things change.” (Fernanda Hoefel, member of McKinsey)

In my last article, “Notice to Navigators,” I mentioned a report published by the Economic Forum pointing out that by 2020 five million jobs will be lost to automation. At the same time, however, the tendency is for the areas of technology, health, relationships with people, education, business vision and creativity to grow because of the transformations that will inevitably take place.

In the perspective of showing future market scenarios, I bring research data from McKinsey Consulting on “The Future of the Job Market: Impact on Jobs, Skills and Wages,” as analysed by James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin , Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko, and Saurabh Sanghvi.

In a time marked by rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence, the survey evaluates the jobs that will be created and those that will be eliminated in different scenarios by 2030.

The report is divided into 5 topics:
• What will be the impact of automation on the job?
• What are the possible scenarios for increasing the number of jobs?
• Will there be enough work in the future?
• What are the implications of skills and salary automation?
• How will we manage the impending workforce transitions?

According to the authors,

“The technology-driven world we live in is full of promise, but also of challenges. Autonomous cars, internet of things, machines that interpret X-rays and algorithms that clarify customer doubts are manifestations of new and powerful forms of automation.

However, even if these technologies increase productivity and improve our lives, their use will take the place of some work activities that today are carried out by humans – a fact that has been raising a lot of concern.”

What, then, will happen to our jobs?

The report is of a surgical precision: a rich picture of possible occupational transformations is being drawn up for the coming years, with important implications in the skills and salaries of the workers, different types of jobs will be created in different scenarios by 2030, but as many jobs may disappear due to automation – the great, authentic futuristic villain.

The report, while optimistic, is not without a trace of restlessness. The bad news is that – based on the scenarios of moderate adoption or rapid adoption of automation, with support in new technologies – it is estimated that between 75 and 375 million people in the world may need to change occupational categories and learn new skills; and, by 2030, around 400-800 million people worldwide may lose their jobs due to automation and will need to find other jobs.

The good news is that with sufficient economic growth, innovation and investment, job creation can offset the impact of automation, although some advanced economies may need additional investments to reduce the risk of job shortages.

Overall, the current educational requirements for occupations that may grow in the future are higher than the jobs eliminated by automation. In advanced economies, occupations that today require only the completion of high school (or a lower level of education) are in decline because of automation, while occupations requiring a university degree (or a more advanced level of education) are growing.

Another good news is that workers in the future will spend more time on activities where machines are less capable, such as managing employees, applying expertise, and communicating with others. They will spend less time on predictable physical activity and data collection and processing, where machine performance outstrips that of humans. The necessary skills and abilities will also change, requiring more social and emotional skills as well as more advanced cognitive abilities such as logical reasoning and creativity.

The major challenge will be to ensure that workers have the skills and support they need to complete the transition to new jobs – a role that should be played by education, which will provide the skills and competencies required for new functional adaptations.

The report warns that countries that fail to manage this transition may see rising unemployment and lower wages. (See: The Digital Future of Work: What Skills Will be Needed?).

But what does all this have to do with us? After all, these are realities of first world countries.

It has all to do with us because the report tells us exactly what we are suffering from, that is, we already have about 13 million unemployed people, and as many more will be coming in absolute unpreparedness, not to speak of the overwhelming automation through technologies that will dominate functions and professions. It’s terrifying!

These technologies are not yet fully incorporated in Brazil,  in industry, in government or in the university, due to corporatism, exaggerated regulation, interrupted or minimized financing, and other ills and effective forces that impede progress and prevent  the country’s capability to glimpse the same promising future, with reservations, as shown by McKinsey.

With the well-known and well-acknowledge needs, deficiencies and precariousness of our national education, the question that needs to be answered is when will we be hit by the scenarios presented above? And we should also anticipate the question: are we prepared for what is already happening and what will happen in the future? The sounding alert was given. In fact, several, from the position that we are at the “bottom” of all educational rankings. This sad reality, however, is preventable.

Judging by BNCCs from the Elementary and the Middle Schools, it remains for us to wait for these two cycles to end and hope that the university is prepared to empower students for the imminent and troubling transitions of the workforce.

By continuing with their current practices, the CNPq, the CNE and other regulatory bodies, backed by retroactive corporatist/associative actions, will remain outside the reality of the market.

Our main conclusion is that while there may be enough work to keep all jobs by 2030, in most of the scenarios evaluated, the transitions will be extremely challenging – matching or even surpassing the scale of changes in agriculture and manufacturing that have occurred in the past .

With the publication of Mckinsey’s report it is possible to say that the educational sector, from the Elementary to Higher Education, is being pushed to deep reflections because the authors, in a certain way, are holding education as the only alternative to overcome the effects that will occur by 2030 in the labor markets due to automation, innovations, changes and other transformations. And the year 2030 is right around the corner.

But, with full transparency, one condition has become very clear: the challenges will be enormous, in the short, medium and long terms, as all educational sectors will have to bear an extraordinary responsibility, as they are challenged to face realities with no more escapism.



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Master of Arts in Political Science, California State University Northridge. Twenty five years experience in executive functions at Brazilian colleges and universities. Writer, lecturer. and consultant is, presently, educational editor for Brazil Monitor